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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

No One Is Perfect!

Is there anyone who does not know this?  I am thinking that everyone would assent to this basic truth.  Most would agree to the statement not from any matter of principle or acknowledgement of fundamental truth but rather the acceptance is often rooted in a kind of mutual agreement to not condemn any particular sin or sinner.  I won't call your sin out and you don't call my sin out because after all no one's perfect.  The argument assumes imperfect beings have no moral standing to call out sin or sinners.

It might do well to note that not all imperfect people are the same.  Some imperfect people despise their imperfections, agonize over the presence of imperfections, struggle to gain victory over the imperfections, and in general have a decided attitude against imperfections their own included.  On the other hand you have a whole group of people, which happens to be the largest of the two groups who embrace imperfections, deny they are imperfections, defend and justify imperfections especially their own.  In general they have a decided attitude to accept imperfections in themselves and in others.

The "no one is perfect mantra" is really a subtle way of saying the only way you can confront sin and sinners is to be perfect yourself.  Clearly this is not a philosophy that is rooted in revealed truth.  The bible is full of imperfect men condemning the sins of their generation.  God even calls upon and appoints imperfect men with the task of condemning the sin of their generation.  This was the role of prophets, it was a role often assumed by the kings and priest of Israel all whom were imperfect men.  It is a baton that was passed to the New Testament Apostles and preachers, all of whom were and are imperfect men.

 The message of the bible is not "no one is perfect but God loves you".  The message of the bible is "repent and believe the gospel".

God calls men to repent!  God uses imperfect men to call other imperfect men to repentance.  God uses people from the first group mentioned above to call people from the second group mentioned above to repent.

We have devolved into a religious culture that has no moral authority to call anyone to repentance because "no one is perfect".

You can't condemn the sin of homosexuality because no one is perfect.
You can't condemn the sin of partaking of strong drink because no one is perfect.
You can't condemn the sin of lying because no one is perfect.
You can't condemn the sin of hypocrisy because no one is perfect.
You can't condemn the sin of adultery because no one is perfect.
You can't condemn the sin of fornication because no one is perfect.

The fact is you cannot condemn any sin in particular because no one is perfect.

Homosexuals are condemned not just because they have committed an act of sodomy but because they justify it and insist on normalizing it.
Drunkards are not condemned just because they have taken of strong drink but because they defend it in spite of what the bible says about it.
Liars are not censored just because they have told a lie but because they justify lying.
Adulterers are not condemned just because they have committed adultery but because they rationalize away the shame of it.
Fornicators are not condemned just because they have committed fornication but because they refuse to repent of the fornication.

The condemnation is justified when the sin is defiantly practiced.  

To say "no one is perfect" as a serum to prevent personal sin from being confronted is akin to taking a larger dose of poison to overcome the remedial effect of biblical instruction.

The bible says in Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

It also says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
And in, 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

Note the instruction to believers in Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Believers are to provoke one another to good works.  Which means two things.  If there are good works then there are evil works (sin).  And if we are to be exhorting each other to good works then we are to be discouraging evil works.

When a person says, "no one is perfect" for the purpose of shielding themselves from scrutiny and if by that they mean you have to be perfect to address any imperfections then they in effect are saying only Jesus ever had any moral authority to confront any one about sin, or to condemn sin in general.

So when Noah confronted his generation as a preacher of righteousness he had no moral authority to do so.

When Moses confronted the sin and unfaithfulness of his generation he had no moral authority to do so.

When Nathan confronted David concerning his sin with Bathsheba he had no moral authority to do so.

When Elijah confronted Ahab and Jezebel along with their wickedness he had no moral authority to do so.

When Daniel confronted the pride and sin of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar he had no moral authority to do so.

When Paul confronted sin in the churches he had no moral authority to do so.

The idea that unless morally perfect yourself you have no standing to confront sin and even at times sinners is absurd by biblical standards.

I will close on the same note with which I opened.  Of course no one is perfect.  But because there is universal imperfection does not mean that all the imperfect people have the same relationship to their imperfections.  Some mourn over, despise, and are ashamed of their imperfection.  Others announce, parade, and defend their imperfections.

To fail to make note of that difference is to be the most imperfect of all!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Blessed Are They That Mourn

Matthew 5:4  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.  In the verse before us we have one of the more striking paradoxes of the entire passage.  Happy are they that mourn??  We obviously do not naturally consider mourning as the path to happiness.  We are clearly being given principles that are from a different perspective than how we normally view things.

Another interesting facet of this beatitude is that it begs the question mourn about what?  No explanation is forth coming so we are left to search the scriptures for an answer.  Anything that causes us to search the scriptures is a good thing.

It is also interesting that living in a world where the emphasis is on personal happiness and comfort there is so little of it.  The more we make it a priority the more elusive it seems.  It is very likely that the reason for this is that we fail to understand what brings true happiness and comfort.  While mourning may not seem like a direct path to happiness and comfort it is a sure path for the scripture declares, “Happy are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.”


WHAT IT MEANS TO MOURN

First let us consider what it does not mean.  It does not mean to be of an anxious spirit.  When we are anxious we have feelings that at a minimum mimic mourning.  The Bible give clear instruction related to anxiety and being anxious.


Matthew 6:25-34  Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Philippians 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

We should not be anxious about tomorrow.  We should not worry about food and raiment.  We should trust God.  Having an anxious spirit is not spiritual mourning.

It does not indicate a failure to rejoice.

Philippians 4:4  Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

We are to rejoice always.  Our rejoicing is to be in the Lord.  So spiritual mourning is not the absence of rejoicing.  We can’t cloak a lack of rejoicing in the garb of spiritual mourning.

It does not mean being despondent.

1 Peter 5:7  Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

We are to cast all our care upon him.  This delivers us from despondency.  There is no justification for despondency.  Being depressed and discouraged is not synonymous with mourning.

The word “mourn” means to grieve.  It can have reference to either the feeling or the act.  It is to lament!

Crabb’s English Synonyms provides the following insight into the word.  “To grieve, in its limited sense, is an inward act; to mourn is an outward act:  The grief lies altogether in the mind; the mourning displays itself by some outward mark.  One grieves for that which immediately concerns one’s self, or that which concerns others; one grieves over the loss of property; one mourns the fate of a deceased relative.  Grieve is the act of an individual; mourn may be the common act of many:  a nation mourns, though it does not grieve for a public calamity.  Grief and mourn are permanent sentiments; lament is a transitory feeling; the former are produced by substantial causes, which come home to the feelings; the latter respects things of a more partial, oftentimes of a more remote and indifferent, nature.  We lament a thing today, which we may forget tomorrow.  Mourn and lament are both expressed by some outward sign; but the former is composed and free from all noise; the latter displays itself either in cries or simple words.  In the moment of trouble, when the distress of the mind is at its height, it may break out into loud lamentation, but commonly grieving and mourning commence when lamentation ceases.”

Mourning is a state of mind.  It is the composed awareness deep in the soul of a man that acknowledges the afflictions or others and results in some outward display.  So what conclusions might we draw at this point?

Well, to begin with poverty of spirit seems to be fertile ground for a mournful demeanor.  It could be that we do not mourn, as we ought, because we are not as poor in spirit as we ought to be.  The scripture actually provides insight concerning a heart that mourns.

Psalm 34:18  The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

A broken heart and a contrite spirit.  To be broken is to be crushed, to have burst.  To be contrite is to be crushed as if made dust.  A broken heart.  A heart that has been, is crushed!  The idea of a broken and contrite heart and/or spirit is not an unfamiliar theme in the pages of the bible.  Consider:

Psalm 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Isaiah 57:15  For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Thus when we think about a mourning that is spiritual we are talking about a person who is so deeply affected that his heart and spirit is smitten, collapsed, and crushed to dust.

I think it is also relevant to point out that a spiritual mourning is not compatible with frivolous, vain, and sacrilegious humor.

James 4:7-10  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

There is clearly an element of spiritual vitality that is rooted in a consecrated mourning that is largely missing from most of our lives.  We would much rather be serenaded by the light hearted “don’t worry, be happy” than “be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”  Anything that makes us happy and laugh is good and to be sought and anything that makes us heavy or afflicted is bad and is to be rejected.  This is certainly a philosophy that is appealing to the flesh but one has to wonder in the face of the admonition, “Blessed is the man that mourns; for he shall be comforted” if we have been sold a bill of goods and set on a path that will never secure what we desire happiness and comfort.

And what about Ephesians 5:3-4  But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

In most places we could probably get a room full of “amens” preaching about fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, and filthiness.  But if we moved along to foolish talking and jesting the room just might fall silent.

Foolish talking is just silly talk, buffoonery.  Let’s consult Crabb’s English Synonyms again for insight about jesting, “One jests in order to make others laugh.  The jest is directed at the object.  One attempts to make a thing laughable or ridiculous by jesting about it, or treating it in a jesting manner.  Jests are therefore seldom harmless.  The most serious subject may be degraded by being turned into a jest.  Treating a thing more lightly that it deserves.”

There are some serious issues in life.  They are not to be made light-hearted by jesting.  Sin, God, heaven, hell, preachers, preaching, death, relationships, eternity, etc., are areas in which sobriety should reign.

I know I have heard over the years plenty of foolish talking and jesting from preachers and even form the pulpit.  It is unbecoming and brings down the dignity of the office and the pulpit that should be aflame with righteousness.

In contrast a mournful heart will be a sober heart!

1 Thessalonians 5:6  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
The Lord’s coming should promote sober-mindedness.

1 Peter 4:7  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
Eternity should promote sober-mindedness.

1 Peter 5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
The presence of the enemy should promote sober-mindedness.

Titus 2:6  Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
The dangers of youth should promote sober-mindedness.


WHY ARE WE TO MOURN?

We should mourn because of sin! 

We should mourn because of personal sin!

Matthew 26:75  And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.  This is a startling exampled!  When Peter was faced with the reality of his unfaithfulness he didn’t go to a support group, he didn’t take a preacher by the hand, he didn’t by a self-help book written by the latest religious sensation.  He went out and wept bitterly!  When is the last time I wept over my sin?  When is the last time you wept over your sin?

We should mourn because of corporate sin!

In our families!  Job 1:4-5  And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.

In our churches!  1 Corinthians 5:1-2  It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.

In our nation!  Proverbs 14:34  Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

We should mourn because of spiritual coldness!

Revelation 3:15-17  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Revelation 2:4-5  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Matthew 24:12  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
We should mourn because of the lost!

Mourn because of their condition!

Ephesians 4:17-19  This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4  But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Mourn because of their destination!

Revelation 20:15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Psalm 9:17  The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

Mourn because of their complacency!
Acts 24:25  And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
Acts 26:28  Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.


A PROMISE TO THOSE THAT MOURN

Spiritual mourning provides a present opportunity.  “Shall be comforted” is the promise.  We are blessed or happy because we will be comforted.  The comfort is promised on the premise of mourning.  Mourning is the prerequisite to being comforted.

The source of our present comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17  Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
John 14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The present source of our comfort is in the triune God.  Father, Son, and Holy Ghost comforts the heart of the believer.  We can afford to mourn deeply because we have access to divine comfort!

The hope of our present comfort.

In relation to sin.

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Psalm 32:5  I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Proverbs 28:13  He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

To truly mourn over sin is to know the comfort that only God can give in forgiveness, restoration, cleansing.  It is an ongoing process.  God reveals sin, we mourn over it, God comforts us!  Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted!

In relation to the lost.

Psalm 126:6  He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Galatians 6:9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

To truly mourn over the lost is to know the comfort that only God can give in fruit being realized.  To truly mourn over our apathy and to have God comfort us by imparting zeal and fresh devotion.  To have God comfort us with emerging opportunities.  To have God comfort us with unexpected fruit.  Passion for the lost is ultimately brought about through mourning over the lost.  If we can’t bring ourselves to mourn over the lost then we should mourn that we cannot mourn!  Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.

A future reality.

The promise will be finally and fully realized on the golden shore at the down of the eternal day!

Revelation 21:3-4  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Psalm 30:5  For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Revelation 7:17  For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Isaiah 25:8  He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the
 LORD hath spoken it.

One parting exhortation from the tongue of Jesus in Luke 6:25  Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

Prior post in this series:


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Poor In Spirit

Matthew 5:3  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The word poor does not generally conjure up happy thoughts.  We do not associate being poor with being happy.  “Poor in spirit” is an interesting phrase, but it certainly does not sound like something that would make us happy.  As I emphasized in the prior blog post it is not the poverty of spirit that produces happiness but the promise.  The poor in spirit are happy because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The promise is a delightful thought.  The condition is another thing.  We certainly want the kingdom of heaven but this poverty of spirit is something we are going to have to think about.  While we consider the condition we are imperiling the promise!

I think that properly understood the idea of being “poor in spirit” in conjunction with the promise will cultivate a desire to embrace the idea that admittedly, on its face, is not very appealing.  In order to facilitate our understanding of what it means to be poor in spirit and appreciate the fact that in doing so we are made happy we need to consider three areas.

What it means to be poor in spirit
Examples of being poor in spirit
The promise to the poor in spirit



WHAT IT MEANS TO BE POOR IN SPIRIT

First, let us consider what it does not mean.  It does not mean meekness.  Meekness is addressed on its own merit in verse five.  It does not mean being mournful.  Mourning is addressed on its own merit in verse four.  It does not mean exhibiting mercy.  Mercy is addressed on its own merit in verse seven.

The word “poor” here actually encompasses the idea of crouching, like a beggar who is cringing, to be a pauper.

The word “spirit” is pnuma which has reference to a current of air, breath, breeze and by implication has reference to mental disposition.  The context usually makes clear in what way the word is being used.

To be “poor in spirit” is to be as a beggar/pauper in our mental disposition.  Beggars see themselves as needy.  Beggars are dependent upon others.  Beggars are, as a rule, thankful for the least kindness.  Beggars do not see themselves as worthy or respectable.  Beggars, as a rule, are lowly in their approach to others.  There is nothing more offensive than an arrogant, ungrateful beggar!

So what conclusion are we to draw from this?  We are to have the demeanor of a pauper.  We are needy creatures.  We are dependent upon others.  We are to be thankful for the least kindness that is shown us.  We are not to see ourselves as worthy.  We are to be lowly in our approach to others.  All of this flies in the face of the modern psychobabble that tells us we are to love ourselves and respect ourselves.  Self-love, as I see it, is anathema to being “poor in spirit”.  There is in fact one word that may come very close to summing up the idea of being “poor in spirit”.  That word is humility!  In fact, it may be that poor in spirit is a fitting definition for humility.

Being poor in spirit is a matter of understanding and embracing the revealed truth about ourselves.

Physically we are dust!

Genesis 2:7  And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 3:19  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Psalm 103:14  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
Ecclesiastes 3:20  All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
2 Corinthians 4:7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

Spiritually we are corrupt!

Jeremiah 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
James 1:14-15  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath
 conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Isaiah 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Romans 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

We must live and have our being in the context of the divinely revealed realities!

Psalm 144:3  LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!
1 Corinthians 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Ephesians 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Matthew Henry wrote, “to be poor in spirit, is to think meanly of ourselves, of what we are, and have and do; . . .  It is to acknowledge that God is great, and we are mean; that he is holy and we are sinful; that he is all and we are nothing, less than nothing, worse than nothing, and to humble ourselves before him, and under his mighty hand.”

Strong words that can tend to raise our ire revealing that we are not poor in spirit!


EXAMPLES OF BEING POOR IN SPIRIT

In the Old Testament
Abraham in Genesis 13:8-9.  In this passage Abraham defers to Lot.
Joseph in Genesis 45:1-8.  In this passage Joseph refuses to harbor malice in the face of extreme injustice.
David in 1 Samuel 26:5-12.  In this passage David forfeits the opportunity to end his suffering at the hand of Saul.

In the New Testament
John the Baptist in John 1:27 and John 3:30.  John the Baptist rejoices at the growing influence of Jesus even though it signaled his diminishing influence.
Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25-30.  Epaphroditus was concerned that others were concerned about him.
Stephen in Acts 7:59-60.  Stephen prayed that the sin of his enemies would not be laid to their charge.

This by no means is an exhaustive list but a small sampling of some who at the particular time mentioned was modeling the virtue of being poor in spirit.


THE PROMISE TO THE POOR IN SPIRIT

Let us think about the promise in the context of a future reality.  The scripture is abundantly clear about the ultimate role of believers in time to come.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2 we are told that the saints shall judge the world.
In Daniel 7:18 it is revealed that the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom and possess it forever.
In Daniel 7:22 it is further revealed that judgment was given to the saints of the most High.
In Revelation 20:4 we are reminded that judgement will be given to the saints and the will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years.

The poor in spirit are destined for greatness.  The poor in spirit is a pauper waiting to become a prince.

But what about now?  Is there any reward now?  Actually the poor in spirit have a very present opportunity!

In Luke 17:21 Jesus instructs us that “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

In being poor in spirit the laws of the kingdom are operative in our own heart.  Being poor in spirit provides us the opportunity to bring the influence of the kingdom of heaven into our own realm of influence.  It is the exercising of kingdom realities that makes one happy, not just in the future but right now!  This is why there are so many accounts of rejoicing martyrs!

If we are poor in spirit, we can have nothing taken from us.  The poor have nothing to take.  The poor have nothing to defend.  The poor have nothing to protect.  The poor have nothing to sustain.

If we are poor in spirit our happiness will rise above earthly, temporal circumstances.  We cannot be offended.  We cannot be “hurt”.  We cannot be affected by ill treatment.  We cannot be caught in a cycle of bitterness and malice.  We cannot be adversely affected by unkind remarks.  We cannot be disturbed by uncharitable actions.

Being poor in spirit we have no fear of being humbled.  As a pauper we are simply thankful for the slightest expression of kindness.  As a beggar we understand our unworthiness.  When the truth is spoken we acknowledge it with humility.  When a lie is spoken we accept it with dignity and grace.

Barnes wrote in his commentary, “There is more real enjoyment in thinking of ourselves as we are, than in being filled with pride and vanity.”

Oh to have the reality of the kingdom in our hearts to such a degree.  The poor in spirit do!


Poverty of spirit is not something that is easily maintained.  About the time we thing we have acquired it circumstances unfold that reveal just how proud we really are.  We ultimately bear the cross of poverty of spirit looking to another day when we will reign with Christ.  Having humbled ourselves we will be exalted.  And, when we are exalted it will be without the baggage of the flesh and we will reign in purity of heart, without the slightest hint of arrogance of pride!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Blessed Life

Do we even know what it is to live the blessed life?  Being blessed is so often directly linked to our personal comfort provided either through material possessions, circumstances, or human relationships.  We are blessed when good things happen to us but when bad things happen to us well, I guess I'm still blessed I just don't feel blessed.  We have been conditioned to understand blessing in the context of the temporal instead of in the context of the spiritual.  It seems from the outset the passage in question is establishing a lofty standard for spiritual living.
 To be truly blessed one must be truly spiritual!

Is this not what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the church at Rome, "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded in life and peace."  Life can only be truly enjoyed in the context of spirituality.  Peace is the result of living a spiritual life.

I believe Matthew 5:1-12 provides some valuable insight into experiencing the blessed life.

Today I want to examine this passage as a whole.  I may come back and look at each of the elements of the blessed life in subsequent blog posts.  It seems important to establish some basic principles for dealing with and understanding each of the beatitudes set before us.

So let us take the first twelve verses of Matthew 5 as a whole.  One of the first things to capture our attention is the use of the word "blessed".  The word is used nine times in these twelve verses and almost immediately sets the tone.  The prominent use of this word makes it incumbent that we understand the full range of meaning.  Consider the context in which the word is used in our passage there are probably a couple of definitions that would be useful:

1. Of or enjoying happiness
2. Bringing pleasure, contentment, or good fortune

The Greek word is translated into one other English word in our King James Bibles.  That word is "happy".  We are therefore, in essence, dealing with principles that make for happiness.  I think an honest reading of the passage would cause us to conclude that people are not happy because they are looking in the wrong places for it.  For the unbeliever we should not be surprised but for us who know the Lord there is no excuse.  The tendency is to think we know what will make us happy, but I believe the passage bears out this is often not true.

Another interesting thing about the passage is that it consists of a series of paradoxes.  A paradox is a tenet of proposition contrary to received opinion; a sentiment seemingly absurd or contradictory; that which in appearances and language is absurd, but yet true in fact.  What is related in these short statements are contrary to opinion and seemingly absurd and contradictory.

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are they that mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst
Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the pure
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are they which are persecuted and reviled

In practice we often reject the premises set forth here as improbable.  We can easily find ourselves in a quandary; knowing we should to yield to the word of God yet believing these words of God to be impractical.  As much as anything it reveals our lack of faith and the fact that we assess the word of God from a carnal perspective. Unfortunately, such a perspective keeps us from seeing and accepting spiritual realities.

There are also a series of promises in this passage.  There are two potential problems related to the promises. 1.  We miss the promise not being able to negotiate the paradox.  2.  We focus on the promise to the exclusion of the paradox.  The promises must be viewed in connection with the paradox.

Theirs is the kingdom of God
They shall be comforted
They shall inherit the earth
They shall be filled
They shall obtain mercy
They shall see God
They shall be called the children of God
Theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Great is your reward in heaven

Could it be we want the promise on our own terms?

I have come to see the word "for" as the key to unlocking the passage.  It is the word "for" that ties the promise to the paradox.

Blessed . . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed . . . for they shall be comforted
Blessed . . . for they shall inherit the earth
Blessed . . . for they shall be filled
Blessed . . . for they shall obtain mercy
Blessed . . . for they shall see God
Blessed . . . for they shall be called the children of God
Blessed . . . for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed . . . for great is your reward in heaven

We are happy because of the promise.  The rub comes when the required virtues are introduced in order to experience the promise.  Happy, not because the pursuit is pleasant but because the reward is, well, rewarding.  Everyone wants the aforementioned promises but one must embrace these spiritual realities.  The process may be painful but the fruit will be sweet.  The question is, are we willing to cultivate the spiritual virtues necessary in order to experience the promise?  The promises are conditional!

These spiritual virtues are the result of being spiritually minded which is only possible because we have been made partakers of the divine nature.  It is as we live out these spiritual virtues that we become the salt and light of the world.  These spiritual virtues force us to face issues of the heart, not living by the letter of the law but rather by the spirit of the law.  As each of these spiritual graces are more fully recognized in our lives we move closer and closer to the standard so clearly expressed in the last verse of Matthew five, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."